APPLE AND FACEBOOK’S ANNOUNCEMENT THAT THEY ARE COVERING THE COST OF FREEZING EGGS HAS PEOPLE TALKING.
This NBC News article takes the positive approach to the matter, kicking off with a quote from Brigitte Adams, an egg-freezing advocate and founder of the patient forum Eggsurance.com. “By offering this benefit, companies are investing in women…and supporting them in carving out the lives they want.” NBC focuses on the positives of this new corporate benefit like leveling the playing field for a male-dominated Silicon Valley and attracting more female talent. It goes on to quote author Emma Rosenblum “Not since the birth control pill has a medical technology had such potential to change family and career planning.”
The article does also touch on, only very briefly, the drawbacks to companies covering the cost of freezing eggs. Women may feel indebted to the company or feel it is perceived they cannot do their job while pregnant or a mother. However, it is brushed off by claiming “the more likely explanation for lack of coverage is simply that egg freezing is still new, and conversation around the procedure has only recently gone mainstream.”
I BEGAN THINKING THROUGH MY STANCE ON THIS NEW “CORPORATE BENEFIT” AS A WORKING MOTHER, MYSELF.
Is it a benefit or a ploy to have women be indebted to their employers and feel pressure to put off Motherhood? The line between work life and personal life is one that is quickly blurring and policies like these blur those lines even further.
Egg freezing is a huge decision and a huge cost, but one that has historically been made after a personal evaluation of your career and financials. With this new benefit a third party, your employer, joins the conversation. Some may argue that your employer was always a part of the conversation, and that is probably true. However, your employer isn’t just a factor anymore, but rather an active contributor.
On the one hand this is a fabulous benefit to offer employees who have already or would have elected to freeze their eggs and may not have been able to afford it. It supports women’s flexibility in choosing when they want to start a family and gives them the opportunity to focus on career now and family later.
On the other hand, this new corporate benefit can add an element of pressure that some women previously did not feel. Before this benefit, the decision was entirely yours to make. Now, since your employer is funding the process there may be a feeling of obligation, or guilt. If you decide to have a child now rather than freeze your eggs for a chance later, does that put you at a disadvantage to progress in your career if you choose to return to work after maternity leave?
Dozens more questions passed through my mind on the matter. What if the company pays to freeze your eggs and later are fortunate enough to have a child when you want one, and then don’t want to go back to work, do you feel pressure to do so because your employer paid for you to freeze your eggs in the first place? What if your employer pays to freeze your eggs and then you decide you want to go to a different company? Do you stay longer than you would have otherwise?
WHERE I NET OUT
I netted out in a place that, at the surface I think it is positive that companies are expanding the benefits they provide their employees, but companies need to do more. I came across one article on SFgate.com that focuses on the need to think about and encourage companies to offer more benefits for employees once they have a family. I certainly agree!
As stated in the sfgate.com article “They could have offered on-site day care. (Currently, Facebook offers full-time on-site day care only for dogs; Apple offers none for dogs or humans.) They could have offered to ease negotiations about flexible work schedules for new parents. Above all, they could have offered transparent salary scales and guaranteed pay equity. Women feel far better about starting a family when they know they won’t be penalized, either economically or in terms of career opportunity, for doing so.”
Rather than discuss the perception of a benefit that a company has decided to offer, we should continue to encourage people to make the decisions that are right for them and encourage employers to expand their benefits to support those decisions. I hope to see an evolution in the way companies support those employees who choose to have a family. Some companies already offer flexible work hours or on-site daycare, but that is far from the norm and only a start.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Timna Molberger is the Director of Analytics at Visible Measures. As a working mom of 2, Timna squeezes in as much time as she can with her husband and two children and when she has a spare moment or needs a break you will find her rock climbing, hanging out with friends, or just relaxing. Timna holds a B.A. in Economics and Sociology from Connecticut College.
Location: Boston, MA